Every now and again you read a book that you really connect with. Something about it, whether the characters or the story, strike a chord with you. You get to the end of the book and you just sit there for a while thinking about it, with a smile on your face but with a sense of loss because it’s over. Deborah Burnside’s latest book, Yes, is one of those books.
Marty (AKA M & M) has trouble reading people, organizing things and pleasing his father. His brain isn’t wired the same as other people so it takes him longer to figure things out, but he’s as normal as any other teenager on the outside. Luke spends his time hanging out with his best mate Luke (AKA Legless) and his ‘chick-mate’ Francesca, who he’s had a crush on for ages. Luke’s always trying to get Marty into all sorts of crazy ventures, and when he attempts to get him involved in YES (the Young Enterprise Scheme) it’s futile to resist. Marty doesn’t know what to expect, but the last thing he thought he would be doing was making crochet hats and being mentored by his dad. Will their business succeed or will it all fall apart?
Deborah Burnside has created a memorable character with an authentic voice. As Yes is told in the first person, we really get inside Marty’s head and we get the sense of how difficult it is for Marty to read people and make sense of the world. Even though his brain is wired differently, Marty is still such a typical teenage boy. He’s got a crush on his ‘chick-mate,’ his dad’s an embarrassment and Marty never seems to live up to his expectations, and he has an obsession with sex. It’s a sign of a great story when you can picture yourself in the same situations, in places that you know – I kept thinking of myself and my best mate from high school as Marty and Luke. One of the things I liked most about Yes is that Deborah can have you laughing out loud one moment, then in tears, and leave you with a smile on your face by the end of the story.
I can’t recommend Yes highly enough. It’s my favourite New Zealand book of 2011 and I’ll be surprised if it’s not a finalist in the 2012 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.